So you have your scuba certification, your gear, and a GREAT dive location - Now all you need is a diving buddy.
Sure, you could go ahead and do a solo dive, enjoying the peace and serenity. But diving with a buddy provides an unequaled opportunity to share your diving experience, which many have found to be ever so much more satisfying than diving alone.
Diving with a buddy also heightens the safety of the dive, as well as the pleasure. When diving with a buddy, you can watch out for one another in a way that makes scuba diving much more safe and secure for both of you.
Here are some tips in choosing and diving with a buddy:
When choosing a scuba diving buddy, the best choice will be to dive with someone who is similar to you in size and in physical ability, so you will both consume air at a comparable rate, and have a compatible pace throughout the dive.
Before your dive, discuss with your buddy the entry and exit points to use at your chosen dive site. Agree with your buddy upon a maximum duration for the dive, or a minimum air pressure. Then you will be able to keep pace with one another better.
Always establish a contingency plan with your buddy in case of different kinds of emergency. For example, in case the two of you get separated, agree to search for no more than one minute and then surface.
Of course it is wise to plan to stick together during your dive, keeping one another in clear view, and never being more than a few feet apart from each other. Be sure to glance over at your buddy approximately every 60 seconds, looking to see if he or she seems to be comfortable and enjoying the dive.
When you keep a frequent and consistent view of your buddy and their situation, you will be much more likely to pick up on any signs of trouble quickly, should they occur.
If you decide to stop or to change your course, always alert your buddy of your intention.
Before your dive, review with your buddy the communication signals you will be using. This is particularly important because it will be impossible to verbally explain yourself when you're under 40 feet of water!
Even if you and your buddy plan to use some of the more advanced communication equipment for your dive, for safety purposes it is still wise to recognize the most common hand signals and be prepared to use them. You never know when and if equipment might fail, and you or your buddy might need to be able to communicate something urgent, such as, "I'm out of air! Buddy breathing needed!"
A good place to view illustrations of common hand signals online is the 'Active Divers Association'. It probably wouldn't hurt to periodically review the hand signals shown in your diving certification material as well.
If you need to get your buddy's attention during your dive, rap on your tank with a rock or with the end of your dive knife. Another technique is to 'scream' lightly into your regulator. It sounds really interesting, and it will carry for quite a long distance underwater.
When it's time to dive, help each other suit up. Besides being easier, when you help each other suit up it builds camaraderie and trust, both important in scuba diving. Scuba is an inherently dangerous activity that could result in serious injury or death. Proper training and equipment are vital to have before even attempting a dive. Diving with a trusted buddy adds a measure of security that can often make 'THE' difference for a safe and enjoyable dive.
One last thing - Never, never, never leave your buddy. No matter how intriguing the mystery hidden just around the corner, it's never worth swimming off and getting separated from your dive buddy - even for a moment.
After your dive, plan to spend just a little time with your buddy and talk about the dive. Not only will you enjoy going over the highlights of your shared experience, but you and your buddy will be able to get and give feedback which can enhance the safety and the satisfaction of your next dive as well